DATE OF INTERVIEW:
1st December 2007
Born from a desire to play live again after many years as just a recorded artist, ex-Goblin keyboard player and legendary film composer, Claudio Simonetti, formed Daemonia in 1999 with the initial aim to re-arrange his old movie scores in a heavier prog-rock form. Famed for his work in Goblin with memorable soundtracks to seminal horror films such as George Romero's 'Dawn of the Dead' (1978) and Dario Argento's 'Profondo Rosso' (1975) and 'Suspiria' (1977), Claudio was a musician ahead of his time. Goblin's experimental, groundbreaking score to 'Suspiria' was a masterful, visionary work and its subsequent influence on horror soundtracks has been massive. Similarly, as a solo artist, Claudio composed the equally influential title theme to Argento's 'Phenomena' (1985) with his pioneering use of a soprano female voice over a heavy, rock backing, preceding the wide use of female operatic vocals in globally popular bands such as Nightwish, Therion, and After Forever by over a decade.
I was delighted to have an opportunity to interview Claudio before Daemonia's only second ever UK live show in London at the beginning of December. Meeting up with the gig promoter at 5pm outside the venue, he leads me up some stairs where the Italian quartet are setting up gear on stage; he introduces me to Claudio and after a couple of minutes we are led back downstairs into another room of the club. Laid back, and good humoured, the 55 year old keyboard maestro is still very much in touch with the scene, and speaking with a strong Italian accent, has very good English. I spend a very enjoyable 40 minutes in his company chatting about a range of subjects from his early career with Goblin to current activities. Initially, I ask about an injury sustained to his finger a few days previously, and I learn of the sad story where 2 of his husky dogs attacked his cat, and despite his interventions (and hence injury), his cat died. A sore looking finger, he would be playing later that night in a lot of pain. I express my sympathies, and then begin the interview...
METAL DISCOVERY: When you formed Daemonia back in ‘99, what were your main aims for the band, because obviously you play a lot of the old film scores you composed?
MD: Did you aim to bring that music to a new generation of music fans or did you aim to please the older fans?
MD: I think you’ve touched on this already, but how did the band come together? Did you advertise for the other musicians or did you know them already?
MD: I saw Titta last month in Holland at the ProgPower festival, and he was singing. I didn’t realise he sung in a band as well - obviously a multi-talented musician! What kind of feedback do you get from fans at shows? Do you get a lot of newer fans of Daemonia who haven‘t heard of Argento, or is it just Argento fans who come to your shows?
MD: So you’re always getting new fans…
MD: It’s the second time you’ve played in this country, are there any countries where Daemonia have been particularly popular…like Japan - you had the live CD from there…
MD: Absolutely, and metal, and prog rock and that kind of music. There are a lot of prog rock and classical music influences in your music - what bands or musicians inspired you to compose in the 70s?
MD: Pink Floyd?
CLAUDIO SIMONETTI: Yes, this band I formed in 1999 because after many years, my feeling is to be back again on the road and play with a new band with the same style that I used to have when I played with Goblin. I found these young musicians in Rome - they came from the underground rock, heavy metal and gothic music. So I found the right musicians to play again this kind of music, and decided to make one record with all the soundtracks of Dario Argento with new arrangements - stronger, more prog rock, and heavier. Our first album was a Dario Argento tribute. It’s the same songs that we will play tonight.
CS: I’m actually lucky because I have many generations of fans from my age…and many of these fans come with their sons, their children, so I have 16 year old people that like this music, and 20, 30, 40, 50 year olds.
CS: Before I put together the band, Frederico was my bass player. He play with me in the studio; we did some records together…he’s the older musician that plays with me and he’s very young. But after that, we decide to do a band and Frederico calls Titta, he’s the drummer, and I call a guitar player, my old friend from the 70s - for the first album we had this first guy called Nicola, and we’d record the album. After Nicola left the band, arrives Bruno, a young musician…we met him because he’s a friend of Frederico, and when he knew that we were looking for a new guitar player, he say “oh, I can play with you, can I play with you? I know all the album, I learn everything. Can I do some demo with you?”. Yeah, he came in my studio and we played together and it was perfect.
CS: Normally of course, especially the young generation that comes to see our concerts, it’s because they know this kind of music, and most of them know maybe more the music than the films. Sometimes, especially in Italy, there are many young people, they have the ring in their telephone with ‘Profondo Rosso‘, with ‘Deep Red‘, you know, but they never saw the film. That’s strange because, even if they don’t know they film…maybe most of them are too young to see the films because maybe some films are 14 to 18 years old….but of course now with DVD, everyone can see them. And so normally we have a lot of people who come because they know this kind of music, but we’ve met many new people who’ve never heard this music before but they love it, so it’s great.
CS: Yeah….I’m sorry, just a minute…
CS: Oh yes, we are popular in Japan, also because Goblin were very famous in Japan. And it’s strange because with this music I have fans everywhere. In many countries there are fans of this kind of music, so I went in the States, in Korea, Japan, and all over Europe, so wherever we go we have people there.
CS: You know why - because horror movies are still number one everywhere.
CS: Oh, I started with all the 70s progressive bands like Genesis, King Crimson…
CS: Yes, Pink Floyd, Deep Purple, Gentle Giant, Jethro Tull. And when we started as Goblin, before we recorded the soundtrack to ‘Deep Red’, we lived in London for one year in the 70s, in 1974, so we recorded some demos here, we had an American singer, and we made some concerts.
(Claudio Simonetti on his reasons for forming Daemonia)
"...this band I formed in 1999 because after many years, my feeling is to be back again on the road and play with a new band with the same style that I used to have when I played with Goblin."
MD: So Goblin was never just an instrumental band, you had a vocalist…
CS: Yeah, yeah, we had a singer. We recorded one record, but not with the name Goblin, with the name Cherry Five. Cherry Five is the real first album of Goblin, with a singer.
MD: I’ll have to check that out! I understand you were born, and grew up, in Brazil?
CS: Yeah, São Paulo, Brazil, yes.
MD: Were you inspired by any Brazilian music, like any South American music?
CS: No! [laughs] Actually, I was born there and lived there until I was almost 12 years old. I had most of the Brazilian feeling on my side, but I don’t really play this kind of music; I don’t like too much Brazilian music. I don’t love football, soccer, you know, I’m not Brazilian!! [laughs] But I have this good feeling with life, you know, and I like to have a laugh with friends - this is typical Italian/Brazilian.
MD: So you’re half Brazilian, half Italian!
CS: Yeah! I play horror music, but I’m not like a horror…I don’t know how to say, er…darkness man, you know.
MD: Definitely, yes. Back in your Goblin days, I think I read Profondo Rosso was at the top of the Italian album charts for quite a few weeks. Was that usual at the time for a…
CS: Ooo yes, especially then, because in this period, in the 70s, was very popular for pop music and pop songs, not progressive or something like ‘Profondo Rosso’. ‘Profondo Rosso’ was completely new at that time so we were very surprised about that because nobody of us never could think that we could reach some big success as we did. And we sold 1 million copies just in the first 10 months. Of ‘Profondo Rosso’, we sold almost 4 million copies of that LP. And we have a record in the Guinness Book because we were for 15 weeks, the first soundtrack…
MD: I think I heard your father knocked you off the top of the charts…
CS: My father, yeah!
MD: At least it was still in the family!
CS: Yeah, it was a great period! [laughs]
MD: How do you compose music to film, do you begin with a script, or do you always have the final film to compose to?
CS: Yeah, normally I see the film when it’s finished, and then I start to work on the scenes. Just if they need something to shoot on the music I write something before, but normally every musician composes when the film is finished.
MD: For most of the 1980s, in Argento movies, he used a combination of your music - particularly when you left Goblin and went solo - and music of other bands, like in ‘Phenomena’ where he used Iron Maiden, Bill Wyman etc. on the soundtrack.
CS: Yeah, because in the 80s, Argento and many other directors, they decide to have compilations of...in ‘Phenomena’ - Iron Maiden, I did the main title, Bill Wyman did another song, and Brian Eno, and…
MD: A great Iron Maiden song in that movie - ‘Flash of the Blade’.
CS: Yeah, ‘Flash of the Blade’!
MD: Did you have any say about the other music in that film, or did Dario decide on that himself?
CS: No, when he asked me to write something for the film…not the entire soundtrack, but just something…especially the main title, and I composed ‘Phenomena’, and he listened to it and loved it.
MD: It’s a great piece of music. I heard that when I was 12, but too young to see the film then because it had an 18 certificate in this country!
MD: You had a brief reunion with Goblin in 2001 to compose the soundtrack for ‘Sleepless’…
MD: I think it came out in this country in 2001.
CS: No, no, 2000. We were contacted by Dario at the end of 1999, and in 2000 we did it.
MD: For me, the soundtrack captures what was the classic Goblin sound. Was it hard to compose with Goblin again?
CS: It was very hard because we were working together after almost 20 years…almost 30 years maybe because we split in 1978.
MD: You did the ‘Tenebre’ soundtrack with 2 members of Goblin…
CS: Oh yes, there was ‘Tenebre’ in the 80s…in 1981...so yes, 20 years…and after 20 years we decide to do this reunion for the film but, you know, I always tell this example - if you’re married, and you’re divorced, you never can…[laughs]…you know, with your wife, with your husband, when something’s broken you can’t change! And especially after 20 years, every one of us, we had a different way to write music. The drummer, he played with many fusion and jazz bands, and the guitar player, he wrote pop songs, and the bass player worked for TV shows doing arrangements. So maybe I was the only one that always continued to play rock with bands, and not them, so it was very difficult for me to say to them - ok, now we do more like rock, and more like Goblin, like the first age of Goblin, but they wanted to change. It was very difficult!
MD: It’s a great soundtrack though. You got back the classic Goblin sound.
CS: Yeah, but it was very, very…
MD: …very hard to get there! Have you heard of the Italian metal band Rhapsody?
MD: They used the music from ‘Sleepless’ at the end of…
CS: Yeah, they did 2 or 3 covers - one is ‘Phenomena’…a very good version. They did ‘Phenomena’, ‘Non Ho Sonno’, and maybe another one, I can’t remember.
MD: From the many pieces of music you’ve composed, what are you most satisfied with? My personal favourite is ‘Opera’ - I think it’s one of the most beautiful compositions I’ve ever heard; a very, very nice piece of music with the soprano vocals.
CS: I don’t know, because ‘Opera’ is not actually a horror song…it’s sweet, and sometimes with something very bad on the scene and you have music that is very sweet, it works…sometimes.
MD: I’ve heard you say ‘Suspiria’ as one of your favourites…
CS: Yeah, ‘Suspiria’, yes. For ‘Suspiria’, we stayed in the studio for 3 months doing experimental music with many new instruments like a big Moog and ethnic instruments like a bouzouki, Indian tabla, sitar…so we did a lot of electronic and ethnic music together. I think this is the masterpiece of Goblin. And ‘Suspiria’ is the most famous film of Dario in the world - especially in Japan. In Japan, ‘Suspiria’ is so famous that ‘Profondo Rosso’ was called ‘Suspiria 2’. That’s funny!
MD: ‘Dawn of the Dead’ is perhaps one of the most famous film soundtracks, apart from ‘Suspiria’, that people associate with Goblin, and I have to ask this - have you seen ‘Shaun of the Dead’?
CS: Yeah, I love it!
MD: They used a small piece of your music on the soundtrack…
CS: Yeah, that’s right. And I love this film, it’s great, one of my favourites! [laughs] It’s so funny and creepy - very well done…very well done.
MD: They didn’t just go for the comedy thing, they went for the horror element as well.
CS: Yeah, when I saw the extras on the DVD of ‘Shaun of the Dead’, they say that it’s funny, but they didn’t want to do something too ridiculous with the zombies - they had the respect. They did a comedy, but it’s still a horror film. They didn’t want to do stupid zombies or something like this. In the film, how stupid are the actors, but the zombies are grrrrrrrrr…except the girl in the garden!! [laughs]
MD: Yeah, when they throw the records! I think the main guy in it, Simon Pegg, he’s a big George Romero fan, and ‘Dawn of the Dead’ is his favourite film of all time he said, so he wanted to do a good tribute to it.
CS: Yeah, it’s a very good film, and the director is very young.
MD: Edgar Wright, yes, he’s about 33 I think. You’ve composed music for Dario Argento’s latest movie, ‘Mother of Tears‘, the third in the trilogy that started with ‘Suspiria’, was that done as a band with the rest of Daemonia, or was that just…
CS: No, it’s just classical music in ‘The Third Mother’…it’s completely classical with a big orchestra - a symphonic orchestra, a big choir, and no rock, just classical, gothic music, except one for the titles.
Claudio downstairs at The Slimelight, London, 1st December 2007
Photograph copyright © 2007 Mark Holmes - www.metal-discovery.com
MD: Have you seen the finished movie?
Interview & Photography by Mark Holmes
[At this point, Claudio’s mobile phone rings - I listen to see if he has the ’Profondo Rosso’ ringtone himself, but it’s hard to tell! He takes the call, then resumes the interview...]
MD: Is it good?
CS: Yes, I like it. You know, after 50 times you see the movie…I would like to see it for the first time to have a real impression, because I saw it born - on set, and during the editing - so I know everything of the film.
MD: Have you seen the final version with your soundtrack?
CS: Yes. In Italy, there is a cut version, but I think it will be distributed in England and abroad in an uncensored version.
MD: Dario Argento’s movies, in this country, in recent years, have not been received too well, so people are hoping this movie is…it’s been announced as his final film so…
CS: I love it! [laughs] It’s good!
MD: You did a track with Dani Filth from Cradle of Filth on there as well - how did that happen?
CS: When I wrote the end titles song, of course with Daemonia playing, I say yes, for the end title I want something really strong and heavy and rock, and I did one demo, and I start to sing like Dani Filth - you know, I love Cradle of Filth, I think they are maybe one the best bands in this genre. And when I finished the demo, I say well, this is a good song for Dani Filth, and after many, many, many phonecalls I reach him and I send him the demo. He loved it, and also because he’s a fan of Dario Argento, me and Goblin, and he’s writing a book with another guy and I put him in contact with Dario to be in the book. And we did this, but I never met him because we did it just by internet.
MD: I was going to ask if he came to Italy to record the vocals.
CS: No, no, he recorded in London, and wrote the lyrics. We stay always in contact by phone and emails, but actually I’ve never met him.
MD: Is he…I presume he’s not coming here this evening?
CS: Oh, he told me that maybe he could come, but he’s very busy about other things…he doesn’t live in London.
MD: Yeah, he lives in Suffolk I think.
CS: He told me last week, maybe I come, maybe I come, but…
MD: I was hoping he might make a guest vocal appearance tonight, but…
CS: Rock stars, you know! [laughs] But I love this song.
MD: It’s a brilliant song.
CS: But tonight we play this song with Dani’s voice recorded. I’ll tell them of course that Dani’s not here, but you will hear his voice…
MD: You’re playing to a click then…